Dirty Dishes

You’re standing at the sink, doing the dishes, again.

I dare you to make this interesting to read about.

82 responses to “Dirty Dishes

  1. You’re standing naked at the sink, doing the dishes again because they didn’t come out clean even on ‘Heavy Duty’ cycle, cursing the fact that some Irish guy you shouldn’t have even considered smiling at on the bus home from your tuba lesson (let alone bringing him home) got you so stoned that it had seemed a perfectly reasonable idea to try to wash your entire wardrobe of two pairs of jeans, three T-shirts and various bits of underwear in the dishwasher. And now the cops are banging on your door.

  2. Looks to me like you enjoy a dare. That is certainly an interesting session with the dishes. It’s not everyone who can work in a tuba in a paragraph about dish washing. Whoop!

  3. I’m standing at the sink, doing the dishes, again. I pop another Zoloft in my mouth and open up a fresh bottle of water to wash it down. Dr. Bronzaft gave me the sample pack of pills today, and a script for the pharmacy. She tested my OCD on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale and gave me a positive prognosis with treatment. She also said that the mild antidepressant could minimize my symptoms and give me some relief, but I’m not feeling any yet. I had to commit to meet her twice a week for therapy too, starting tomorrow.
    I own and operate the largest car wash in Middletown. My greatest fear is that someone at work will find out about my strange habits. My employees have seen me going into my private bathroom at least 10 times a day. I don’t know if they are aware that I go there to wash my hands. God only knows what they think. Why do I think about what they think? The dishes are done. I stack the plain white Pfaltzgraff dishes neatly, in descending size order, on the granite counter top next to the sink. I admire them for a few moments, but pleasure is soon replaced with anxiety. The dishes still need cleaning! I’m standing at the sink, doing the dishes, again. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    • Yes! The OCD angle is genius (although I’ve always thought DCO looks neater, don’t you think?).

    • I take Zoloft too, although I’ve never had the urge to wash and rewash dishes. Instead, I’ve spend the past three Novembers, writing a 50,000 word book. I reckon I’m the lucky one. I don’t get dishpan hands.

      • Hi Shaddy,
        You are the lucky one. I find writing is the best medicine too. My choice of Zoloft was just chance. I did some quick research for this fiction piece and could have chosen Citalopram (Celexa), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Paroxetine (Paxil), or Sertraline (Zoloft) as these are all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the first type of drug given to those experiencing OCD symptoms. More info can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001926 for readers that want to dig deeper.
        All the best,

      • For the sake of accuracy and lots more admiration from y’all :), I’ll have you know that I spent the past three Novembers writing THREE-50,000 word books.

        Impressed? Don’t be. I haven’t had the guts or ambition to do anything with them. Writing them was reward enough.

    • Amazing riff on the dishes, Rich. “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” is one of my favorite quotes. It’s so American. If we can use more soap, surely things will be twice as good. Bravo.

  4. I’m standing at the sink, doing the dishes, again. It’s a never-ending job. Sometimes, I wish I could get my hands on the person who created them. If it were up to me, I’d serve meals directly on the kitchen table. Washing four sets of silverware, the soup pot and tabletop would be a cinch.

    I stare across the sink and out the window. What if I had no dishes to set out?

    When I come to, my arms are covered with blood. Where the window used to be is a gaping hole edged with sharp points of glass. I pick a piece of glass from my forearm and examine it. My eyes drop to the sink. The water is red and the sink is empty.

    • I’m going to have you call my mom before you do any more dishes. I really like your idea of eating directly off the table. Someone should design a table with this in mind. Thanks for your comments on my piece. I enjoyed reading you piece and all your other posts also. It would have been fun being in BWW with you.

  5. Nice! Is this a dish-washing induced hypnotic blackout? I can see a pile of porcelain on the ground below the window.

    • Thanks, Rich. I’d venture to say it was more of an anger induced blackout. Ann’s writing prompts can sure pull some unexpected and bizarre stories out of me. These were my first thoughts after reading the prompt.

      Writing is an effective method for getting in touch with emotions. It beats actually breaking things!! 🙂

  6. Hey Shaddy! Welcome back. Three books in three years. Quite a feat. All that writing must be teaching you a lot. Are you going to revise any of them?

    • Dirty dishes
      Lost wishes
      Wanted to play
      This sunny day
      But hungry faces
      Cut out the places
      I got to go
      Except the stove.
      Now they’re full
      And I feel dull
      Chili again
      Stuck to the pan
      Soak with soap
      Smile like a dope
      Don ear phones
      And away I go
      Lizbeth or Harry
      Sherlock & party
      Off to the races
      And other great places.

    • Thanks for the welcoming words. I revised the books I wrote in 2009 and 2010.

  7. Standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes again, soap bubbles become arctic ice caps too wild for wildlife. I’m shivering as bubbles become snow in this silent, frigid kitchen, and I reminisce of the days my little sister and I were children making angels in the snow, too happy to be cold.

  8. Hi Ann,
    What a fun and informative blog…I’m just starting to explore!

  9. My third attempt at making ensaymada – Filipino sweet bread – is yet again unsuccessful. My mood rises and falls as the dough doesn’t rise but falls. I’ve succeeded in nothing more than creating a gargantuan mess consisting of bowls, mixing appliances, baking tins, measuring devices and useless dough. I love baking but I hate cleaning. It seemed simple. Mix flour, sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and yeast . . . The dreaded yeast that has become my nemesis. I stand before the warm toaster oven watching, waiting. Did it rise even just a bit? After an hour I know I have been defeated by of all things, yeast. I grab the phone and dial. I should have done this before I started this mess.

    “Mom, remember the ensaymada you used to make when I was little? I’m trying to make it again. How the heck do I get the yeast to work? I’ve tried three times. First I warmed the milk. Didn’t work. Then I stuck it in the warm oven like you told me to but that didn’t work. Then I tried both together. Nothing. I’m tired of being teased by sweet smelling but unrising dough. Help! Can you think of anything else?”

    She laughs, “That’s so funny. I don’t know, Lis. I just remember mixing the ingredients and putting it in the oven at a low temperature. I got the recipe from Lula but I lost it after the hurricane. She was known for making the best ensaymada in our area but she died so I can’t get the recipe anymore.” Her voice lowered as she said, “I’m sorry, Lis. I wish I could remember but my memory is going.” I can hear my Mom trying to absorb some of my disappointment and I feel badly. Moms try so hard. Our conversation continues for another fifteen minutes.

    I smile as I think of all the wonderful things my Mom has done for me over the years. I remember her in the kitchen making the ensaymada, mixing, kneading, baking. Sometimes I would sit in front of the oven and watch the dough rise. As the sweet bready smell wafted through the house my brothers and I would trample over one another to be the first to get a taste.

    I’m still smiling as I say, “Thanks, anyway, Mom. I’ll try googling tips again. Love you.”

    “Okay, Love you too.”

    I look down at the sink. It’s empty and a pile of clean baking tins, bowls, mixing appliances and measuring devices are now drying beside me on a kitchen towel. Moms are magical. I think of my own daughter and hope that I can be as magical for her.

    I smile, grab my ipod and start typing “yeast tips.” Some childhood memories are too good to put to rest.

    If anyone has fool proof yeast tips please let me know. I’m tired of throwing away sweet smelling dough. It really is a tease.

    • I can understand your frustration and I admire your determination to have success with your baking. I enjoyed reading your narrative of your recent experiences in the kitchen.

      I wish I had tips to help you but I sure don’t. My cooking knowledge is just enough to get me by. Good luck!

    • What a wonderful piece. You’re a bricoleur at heart! I hope this is the first of many pieces you share here.

      There is a step in bread making called “proofing” that you might try. You mix the yeast with about 1/4 cup of warm water just to make sure your yeast is active. If it doesn’t start bubbling and doing things, you have bad yeast. Maybe that’s it?

      • Thank you, Ann, for your support and advice. I can use your blog for cooking advice. What an added perk. Your blog is a wonderfully intimate version of BWW. Although, I was a bit intimidated at first. Anonymity is a wonderful thing. I truly enjoy reading and posting here. I will be sure to use your proofing tips. Thanks again.

    • As a German chef once told me, you must feed the yeast. Add fresh yeast (look for its expiration date) to very warm, but not hot, water and sprinkle in some granulated sugar. Just a pinch or two. After it bubbles up, it’s ready to add to the flour mixture.

      After the chef told me yeast was a living thing, I kept my eye on it–imagining an alien life form growing in the small bowl, ready to devour ever-larger things. Never did trust yeast after that.

    • Hi Lisa, I liked this one, too and can identify with the bread baking difficulties. Ann’s suggestion is probably the best. Also, if your milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast. The sugar will feed it. Another thought is you may not be adding enough yeast. I had some sweet bread fail last month because I read the recipe wrong and shorted the yeast by 1 tsp. It never rose, just as you described.

      Hope you keep writing and best of luck with your bread!

    • Hi Lisa, this is charming. If you can believe it, as I’m reading these posts after having just submitted mine, I’m waiting for a batch of homemade focaccia bread to rise … I’ve made my own bread for years and was about to submit my yeast tip when I see that Ann beat me to it. I love baking bread (and cakes – I learned from my mom who made everything from scratch), but agree that the dish clenaup afterwards is always a pain.

    • Lisa, here’s another yeast tip:
      If you are dissolving the yeast in water first, the water should be between 105°F and 115°F. If you are mixing the yeast in with the dry ingredients and then adding the water, the water can be between 120°F and 130°F. I use an instant read thermometer (also known as a microwave thermometer) to measure the temperature of the water. If it’s too cool, I warm it in the microwave, if it’s too hot, I add cool water and then adjust the amount. If the water is too hot, it will “kill” the yeast, even if the yeast is still good.

  10. I am frozen in place at the kitchen sink, my hands immersed in sudsy water that is cooling rapidly. I hold my breath until my lungs demand that my breathing recommence.

    Outside on the lawn, a young male practices his moves in an early morning fog. He could be dancing to “Swan Lake” or the “Nutcracker” for all I know, because I know nothing about ballet. But this “danseur” is compelling and I cannot take my eyes off his long legs and the movement of the muscles beneath the skin.

    He moves this way and that in “pas assemble” (thank you, Wikipedia) then rises in an “elevé.” On his face I see great joy, joy in his freedom of movement, joy in being alive on so fine a morning.

    Why he has chosen my lawn to practice his dance, I cannot say, but I feel especially blessed to watch this young bull moose move with the exhilaration of an accomplished “Danseur noble” at so young an age.

    • I can’t quite visualize a moose ballet dancing. Well, on second thought, I think I can. Learning to manage his spindly long legs could easily cause him to move into the unusual positions ballet dancers strike.

      You surely were blessed by such a rare treat right in your own backyard. In hopes of seeing more shows like that, I’ll wash dishes in your sink any old time!

    • I tried to guess the animal all the way through. I considered a swan, a crane, perhaps a red squirrel. I never, never thought of a moose. You have the world’s best kitchen window. I’d pay money to dishes there!

      Thanks for the visit.

    • Can I get a ticket to the show if I only offer to dry the dishes? I love your work. Thanks for the advice on yeast. I must admit I’m a bit hesitant to try it now that I have images of alien yeast in my head.

  11. Ann, I’ve watched Ms. Sarah’s videos and read the posted chapters of Onward is Best: A Christmas Journey –so touching and beautiful. I’ve asked my husband to purchase the book for me for Christmas. May I post the book link to my facebook page? I have many facebook friends from all over the world, mostly writers, poets, literary journals and of lots of family members. I want to show them.
    I’m so sorry you lost your lovely sister. I very much enjoyed watching her and listening to her describe her story.

  12. Pamela,
    I would be so pleased if you would post the book link to your facebook page. We are so happy to share this book with whoever enjoys a good Christmas story. Your sharing it also makes me feel like am helping to honor her–something that I want very badly to do. Thanks for the lovely thought and note. –Ann

  13. Thank you so much for allowing me to share the book link. Would it also be ok if I post Ms. Sarah’s videos? I’m going to post the book link right now. I’m so excited to share this link with my friends.

  14. Oh yes! Feel free to share her videos. She and her husband were very active artists in St. Louis, and her loss has been widely felt. This kind of sharing helps her remain an active participant in the art world. Thanks again! You’re making my day.

  15. Thank you…You and Ms. Sarah have made my day.

  16. I have to share this, even though I didn’t write it. It is a song my mom made up when my two oldest sisters were busy little girls who liked “helping” in the kitchen.

    Wash the dishes,
    Dry the dishes,
    Turn the dishes under.
    Wash the dishes,
    Dry the dishes,
    Let it sound like thunder!
    Wash the dishes,
    Dry the dishes,
    Slam them on the floor!
    Wash the dishes,
    Dry the dishes,
    Till we have no more.

    Funny how often I find myself singing it when my hands are in the suds!

    • I love this as well. Your mom sounds like fun. Why don’t dirty dishes remind us of our fathers? Hmm…

    • It’s precious that you find yourself singing your mother’s song when you’re washing dishes. I love links to memories. “Slam them on the floor.” My sentiments exactly!

  17. How amazing, Maureen! Think how much your mom would have enjoyed goofing around with us all on our sites. In her honor, you can carry on the tradition of someone who took a mundane activity and made it into a memorable rhyme. I love it ! I may use it myself. Great posting.

  18. Here I am standing at the sink, doing the dishes, again. You’d think I’d learn, but I don’t. Maybe next time, but probably not. But I feel good, nice wine, good food, nice conversation, and now I’m paying for it. Maybe next time I’ll check if I have my wallet before I order.

  19. You’re standing at the sink, washing dishes, again. A knife and a teaspoon, a plate, and the coffee mug with her star sign on it. And again, as usual, you’re thinking about all those nights of the two of you there, you washing, her drying and occasionally passing back a salad bowl or casserole dish and pointing out how you’d missed a spot, the two of you laughing, the two of you quietly talking all kinds of dumb crap while you worked.

    You’re standing at the sink, drying dishes, again. And again, as usual, you’re thinking it’s not fair having to do both jobs on your own.

  20. After seeing Ben off to the school bus stop, I closed the front door, and turned towards the hallway. The list of the day’s chores and errands ran through my head. Shower, breakfast, dishes, laundry, haircut, grocery shopping, dinner preparation… Oh, fun, fun, fun. I sighed and headed upstairs for my morning shower.

    Munching on my multi-grain cereal while perusing the morning’s paper, I noted that “extreme weather” was predicted for today. “What else is new in Minnesota in June?”, I muttered and turned the page. The clouds outside were dark grey and rain lashed against the windows.

    I loaded my breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and began tackling the stack by the sink. There was always a collection in the morning. “The twelve dancing princesses”, I thought. My dad and I used to joke about that fairy tale. The tale goes that a king sent a proclamation throughout his land that any young man who could figure out where his twelve daughters vanished every night could marry whichever daughter he chose. The twelve girls would disappear nightly and reappear in the morning, exhausted, with worn out slippers by the side of their beds. Nobody ever witnessed their departure or return. The princesses were able to cast a sleeping spell over their servants and all the young men who tried to discover the secret. One resourceful young man was finally able to elude the spell, follow the princesses, and discover that they were dancing all night long with fairies. He married the prettiest and smartest daughter. My dad and I used to say that the twelve dancing princesses came to our house every night, used our dishes, and left them by the sink for us in the morning.

    Just as I reached for the first dish, I heard the wail of the tornado siren. “Oh, for crying I out loud!”

    I snapped off my rubber gloves, grabbed my purse, my current library book, a bottle of water, and headed for the basement. We were relatively new residents to Minnesota, but we knew enough to heed those sirens, even though nothing had ever come close to our house in the two years we’d been here. Although we figured our county always overreacted, we didn’t take chances.

    I turned on the TV in the basement to the weather channel. Then I settled down into a little alcove created under the stairs between the furnace room and the crawlspace. Tornadoes move fast and the all-clear would often come within five to twenty minutes of the first warning. I worried about Ben, but knew that the school would have moved everyone to the severe weather shelter area. I opened my book and began reading, keeping an ear cocked to the TV.

    The sound of the wind outside rose, shrieked, screamed, the ceiling exploded, and debris crashed down all around me.

    The roaring just as quickly diminished and then ceased, leaving only the loud drumming of the rain. Miraculously, I was unhurt. The wind had torn away a section of ceiling above me, leaving an open space for me to crawl through. I hoisted myself up into the area that had once been the small hallway between my living room and kitchen.

    Smashed cabinetry, splintered furniture, shattered dishes, and broken glass greeted me. Coats and jackets lay scattered on the floor by the hall closet from where they had been wrenched from their hangers.

    I started laughing as I spotted, on the kitchen counter by the sink, the untouched, unbroken, still neatly stacked pile of dishes waiting to be washed. On the floor, amid spilled spices, flour, and dried pasta, sat my slippers.

  21. (Somebody stop me before I self-harm my brain.)

    You’re standing at the sink, washing dishes, again. Your father stumbles through the back door, stinking of cheap booze, again. Your mother, in her faded housecoat, starts yelling at him, again. You snap, and fling a plate to the floor, again. You stomp between them and up to your room and shove a few clothes into a knapsack, again. You’re out of here, ditching the whole messed-up existence, and clearing out to New York to become a beatnik and then maybe a famous writer, again. You pause, stare at the ceiling, and fail to come up with the next sentence of your too-often-stalled autobiography, again.

  22. Again, again, and again. There is certainly a wonderful cadence to that, FM. It’s also great fun to move out of the story and into the mind of the writer. A bit of deconstruction there. One stunning paragraph.

  23. That’s FigMince. Stunning!

  24. I’d only spoken with her once since she and her husband moved in next door with their kids. I didn’t even know her last name when I read the story on news about a two-car accident that killed a middle-aged man I had known when he was a kid. I had to call a neighbor who has kids and ask if my “new” neighbor was the driver of the other car—the one that slid into the opposite lane on the worst corner of this whole highway. So, while I stood at the kitchen sink washing some dishes that don’t fit in the dishwasher, I thought about her and wondered what I could do. I dried my hands, walked next door, and did the only thing I could. “S—–, “ I said, “Could you use a hug?” And then I held her for a long time.

  25. Ann,
    I have some friends who use this tool to help publicize and promote their books: https://www.createspace.com/. Some are having great success. I haven’t tried it yet myself, but apparently it’s free. My FB friend, William Hatfield, is a sci-fi writer and is starting to make a name for himself in the sci-fi arena. He always uses this tool.

    A lot of talented people post here!

  26. She stands at the sink, doing the dishes again. The window over the sink gives her the perfect view of him walking up the sidewalk. She heart skips a beat just thinking of being in his arms again. She sloshes suds over the plate and stares out the window, her mind thousands of miles away. She imagines him sitting in the sand, water bottle in hand, and laughing with those gathered around him. He was their class clown, and she knew he would be making all those around him laugh, he would be lifting their spirits for a few minutes anyway.

    She puts the dish down, her eyes blurring with the tears that never seem to dry up. She turns and walks into the living room and over to the fireplace. On the mantle is his picture, how handsome he is in his uniform. As she places the picture back, she picks up the black case beside it and opens it. Inside placed on the gray lining is his purple heart and gold star. She then runs her hand over the tri-folded flag and realized he would never walk up that sidewalk again.

    • How’d you come to know the hearts of women so very, very well? You definitely have a soft side, but then, I think you’re a sweetie through and through. Nice job, Walk.

  27. You’re not standing at the sink, not doing the dishes, again. Instead, you’re sprawled on the sofa, reading Gloria Steinem again and finally getting it after all these years of thinking she was extreme. It’s been two weeks now and just about all of the crockery’s dirty and piled up across the kitchen work surfaces, but to hell with him – if he wants to eat, let him eat from his hands like the crude caveman he’s proven himself to be.

  28. I’m standing at the sink, doing dishes, again. My mind wanders back in time. I become a five year old again. Mom is outside, visiting with Mabel, our neighbor from across the street. When she went out the door, I pushed a chair up to the sink and started washing dishes with a bar of hand soap. I’m feeling good because I’m helping Mom and she’ll be so proud of me when she comes back inside. I’ve never done anything grownup like this before.

    Here she comes. Mabel is coming inside too. I’m so excited. I turn my beaming face to catch the smile on her face. There is no smile. Instead, Mom scolds me. “What are you doing? That’s not the way dishes are washed. Get down and go outside.”

    I don’t feel good anymore. I feel really bad inside. I go outside and sit on the swing, but I don’t feel like swinging.

    • This just hit home for me in so many ways. How difficult it is to be a child trying to please your parents. How difficult it is to be a parent trying to raise a child with love, fun, and laughter; but too often tipping over into criticism.

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